The Everest: Anthony Cummings cautious but confident about Libertini’s chances

Trainer Anthony Cummings concedes his usual boundless confidence in star sprinter Libertini is tempered by the quality of opposition in the $15 million The TAB Everest (1200m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.

“The reality is, in a normal race, Libertini would just go out there and win – but this is not a normal race,’’ Cummings said.

“The depth to this field is extraordinary and you have to give due respect to the opposition.

“Everyone is there with a view to their horse that is probably not dissimilar to mine.

“So, hopefully, we have a clean race and the best horse wins. I’m expecting that to be me but it might be someone else and really there is no disgrace in that.’’

The elite 12-horse Everest field includes seven individual Group 1 winners of 17 major races and collectively they have earned more than $27 million.

Libertini hasn’t won at the elite level but there is no doubting her ability as she demonstrated in winning the Group 2 Premiere Stakes two weeks ago.

She beat Everest rivals Classique Legend and Nature Strip by a widening two lengths, recording a blistering 1min 7.6sec for the Randwick 1200m.

Libertini blitzed Everest rivals Classique Legend and Nature Strip last start in the Premiere Stakes. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

But in latest TAB Fixed Odds betting, Nature Strip is $4.60 favourite from Classique Legend at $5 while Libertini has eased to $9.50.

The Cummings-trained mare was at $6 in Everest betting at the start of the week but since Tuesday’s barrier draw when she was allocated the outside gate, she has been the market drifter.

Cummings said the barrier is not ideal but still believes Libertini, who will be ridden by Regan Bayliss, is good enough to overcome the draw.

“I don’t think you can lock in a plan from out there,’’ he said.

“We need to take the opportunities when they come as you are in the hands of 11 others.

“There are some designated backmarkers and some leaders so, in the midst of that, there is going to be a gap somewhere.’’

Regan Bayliss rides Libertini at trackwork this wek. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Cummings said if Bayliss can find cover on Libertini early, the mare is going to be the one to beat.

“I believe she is better with a back to follow and that’s what I’m hoping for early in the race,’’ Cummings said.

“Nature Strip has drawn in and we all know if he jumps away, he will be up there. Haut Brion Her has natural gate speed and she will be in the firing line, at least for the first furlong. Eduardo has plenty of speed.

“Bivouac has the same issue as mine so they are going to need to make a decision early.

“If she ends up three-deep with cover, I would be rapped in that, really.

“Then we can sit and wait like we did last time in the Premiere Stakes.’’

Libertini was explosive that day, sprinting past Classique Legend.

It was the four-year-old mare’s first start since March and Cummings maintains Libertini will take improvement into The Everest.

“She’s perfect,’’ Cummings said.

“All the improvements we were looking for came so she is going into the race in great shape.’’

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PRIDE: WE’RE NOT WAITING FOR NATURE STRIP

Eduardo’s trainer Joe Pride has boldly declared his sprinter “won’t be waiting for Nature Strip” in the early speed battle for the $15 million The TAB Everest (1200m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.

Horse of the Year Nature Strip is widely expected to attempt an all-the-way win but he doesn’t always begin well from the barriers.

Pride said Eduardo is a brilliant starter and he will be instructing jockey Rachel King to be positive early to “negate barrier nine”.

“Eduardo’s a fast barrier horse and I have told Rachel there is no point being half-hearted at the start of the race,’’ Pride said.

“Nature Strip doesn’t always begin well, he is not the fastest in the first 100m either, so we could quite possibly cross him early.

“We don’t want to eyeball him but we don’t want to just assume he is going to lead.

“If Nature Strip happens to miss it (the start) we won’t be waiting for him.

“But if Nature Strip jumps well and does lead, Rachel will probably sit just off him and have Eduardo where he is comfortable. We have to run our own race.’’

Eduardo will ensure Nature Strip doesn’t get his own way. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

King, the first female jockey to ride in The Everest, got a chance to put Eduardo through his paces in a Warwick Farm barrier trial eight days ago, when she would have gained an invaluable appreciation of the sprinter’s sheer speed.

Eduardo tore around the track to win the trial by nearly seven lengths, running 46.24sec for the 801m including a final 600m sectional of a very fast 32.63sec even though King never really put the gelding under any pressure.

“You expect to see fit horses trial well but his times were outstanding,’’ Pride said.

“He’s a fast horse, he runs quick times. He is not a fierce-going horse but he just runs fast with his ears pricked.”

Nature Strip, rated the world’s premier sprinter, is the $4.60 favourite with TAB Fixed Odds to win The Everest while Eduardo is at $21.

A seven-year-old gelding having just his 16th start in The Everest, Eduardo wasn’t even broken in until he was four.

But the late start to Eduardo’s race career isn’t seen as a negative by Pride, who was only given the sprinter to train earlier this year.

“I’ve had a fair bit of success with older horses and most of them weren’t racing at two and did very little racing at three,” Pride said.

“When Eduardo joined my stable, I went back through his form — he won a Group 2 very early in his career then he sort of lost his way a bit, but they don’t lose their ability and we have got him back on track now.

“I don’t think we have seen the best of him yet and that might seem strange to say when you are talking about a seven-year-old but I’m convinced his best racing is ahead of him.

“He’s there to run a big race in The Everest.’’

Originally published asCummings cautious but confident with Libertini

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